Tuesday, February 8, 2011

with separation from child: allow no cry, some cry, or let cry?

We had a rough one last night, Lilly whimpering, clinging to me all night. While I was lying there hugging and comforting her, I couldn't make up my mind if I'd rather it wasn't physical or emotional. Yesterday we had our second ECFE class of this semester with new kids in her class, several of whom will cry during separation. And that makes both me and my little Lilly sad. On top of it all, her best friend Anna took a spill head down the stairs from the little doll area.

All afternoon and evening yesterday, Lilly kept processing all of this. "Anna fell. Anna cried. Hug Anna." And then she'd talk about the other children who'd cried, the little snotty girl who kept coughing. The little boy. The other boy. And so on.

Well, this morning I asked why her night had been so rough; was she feeling sick? No. Sad? Yes. And then the same processing all over again.

Ahh, it makes me miss our fall class, no matter how much I kvetched about that. But none of the parents in that class would separate if their children cried. For a while a couple of the parents would stay with their children, but then when the kids were ready, they'd join us. 

I realize I may be in the minority here about not letting Lilly cry. For us, this has meant that I couldn't work out for months, because Lilly would cry if I left her in the gym's child watch area. Now she's happy there, that is except for whenever children there are sad, which aches me too.

The results are in from the poll on crying and children's sleep, and I'm clearly in the minority in that department: 12 % checked no cry, 31 % some cry, and 56 % let cry.

A friend of mine has sleep trained her children, and whenever I'm there and she's putting the babies down for a nap, she'll check with me if I'm okay with some crying. And truly, I've always been when I'm there. Because none of her kids ever cry in a despondent manner, just in a whiny tired way. Which is different from what I've heard at the gym and yesterday at ECFE. My friend's kids are all thriving little ones, you get the sense they feel safely harbored at home. She'll joke with me about how we're so different in our parenting, yet such good friends, but really I feel like we're a lot alike as parents too. We both find it important to stay calm, caring, attentive and grounded in ourselves and in our parenting, and I think that has a lot to do with why our kids are the way they are, well-adjusted sociable happy kids.

What do you think about this? I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions. And please cast your voice in the poll on the sidebar when you have a moment. Thanks!


  1. I could never let Erik cry when he was going to bed so we would rock him until he went to sleep. Kids are so different though, with some it might be fine. I don't know.

  2. I'm a no cry on separation from mama, too. (Also was a no cry on the sleep post.)

  3. I'm a no cry mama for both as well & find it incredibly comforting to see I'm not the only one (though we're still in the minority). I'm really the only mom around here who is no cry, something for which I take a lot of criticism. 

  4. I'm not going to go into the sleep issue, b/c I feel that's more complicated, variable, and there's too much to say about it, but what I will say about separating for, say, the child room or toddler class or preschool is that kids who get used to doing that have less trouble, typically, doing it when they HAVE TO do it, like when kindergarten starts (or preschool, for some of us). Because they've built up their confidence that they can be OK, and that Mama always comes back. It's less stressful to handle the Big Required Step of going off to kindergarten if you've already mastered separation via smaller, shorter, less-scary activities like toddler class. Believe me--it's much, much easier as a parent to put that little one on the bus for kindergarten that first day in September if they've already done things similar to this--and eventually done them just fine, w/ no crying--than if separating has never been required of them before. Just my 2 cents--as a parent of children a little older and as a psychologist too! :)

  5. Thanks for your input, Shannon! I agree that mastering separation before Kindergarten makes sense and I'm glad that Lilly now is happy in the child watch area at the YMCA and during separation at ECFE and when she's with my friend Mary on Fridays from 8-12 and every other Thursday morning when we child swap for yoga. But considering the child's need of building attached relationships the first two-three years of his/her life, I wouldn't have wanted to push for separation if she'd not been happy with it. Hence whey I didn't push for separation at the gym till she was ready last December (I'd just be with her in the child watch area for a bit and play), and why she still hasn't been left with a babysitter (a factor there is also our lack of income, but now that she's so happy with the gals at the YMCA, and we're getting eager for some couple time, I think it could be a good thing for all).

  6. In my experience, crying at separation is extremely age-dependent and changes dramatically as the years go by. Since we parent 50/50 and have since C was born (although obviously I did 100% of the breastfeeding), C had to separate from me all the time. Every time it was my turn to work for an hour or two (or whatever I chose to do during my scheduled work time (shower, nap, dentist appt., etc.). And he did sometimes cry, depending on the phase he was in. But if I was leaving him in the comforting arms of his very own adoring papa or his very own grandparents, well, tough luck kiddo! He never cried long. And he has a great "attached" relationship with his father and grandparents in addition to with me, which is priceless.

    I work part-time from home and have since he was 3 months old. So back when he was a baby/toddler and I had magical mama powers to fix any booboo just by holding him I would go back upstairs and comfort him if he got hurt or something and then I would return to the home office once he was calm again. But once that magic touch wore off, I realized I was just undermining his (great) relationship with his father if I ran up there every time he cried. Papa can comfort him just as well. Differently, but just as well.

    Once C figured out that I always came back when I said I would and that I always love him, he outgrew the separation anxiety. I think he's a more resilient soul now for not always having had me there as an emotional crutch. And like I said, I think it was great for his relationships with his father and grandparents.

    Plus it did me a world of good (mentally and emotionally and financially) to be able to continue my career, even if only a few hours a day. It makes me appreciate the time I do spend with him so much more. Him too, I think.

    And we never have to short out his brain with DVDs and videos and other electronic media because we just need a break. Being able to pass him off to the other parent (whether or not he fussed at the separation) gives the tired parent the break or space he/she needs.

    Now that he's in pre-school a few hours a day, there's never any crying at drop-off. He loves it there and knows when we'll be back for him. We always stay long enough for him to get engaged in something. Sometimes he pushes us out the door because he's ready to get playing :-)

    Actually, I used to work at a Montessori school and got to see separation crying from the other side there. Any kid, no matter how attached and safely harbored they feel at home will occasionally fuss at separation, but it always ends 30 seconds after the parent leaves. The longer the parent stays, the greater and more poignant the melodrama of separation. The kids who had far less good situations at home never put up much of a fuss when they got dropped off as far as I can recall. From a teacher's perspective, the rip-the-bandaid-off-and-just-leave approach definitely minimized the child's suffering.

    Interesting topic. Hope Anna's head is feeling better.


  7. I hear you on the babysitter issue, Anne! We've only had a sitter a handful of times (the same one, the daughter of a friend)--mainly b/c of financial constraints and no extended family to help out. But to some degree I don't feel like dealing with the separation/sitter drama. At times it's been fine (we only go for like an hour! and never at bedtime!), but the last time (last summer), Genevieve screamed LIKE YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE. Sigh!

  8. My situation seems similar to yours, Tara, in that there was some separation at about 3 months of age when I needed to go to work for a few hours at a time and leave my little one with her Daddy. I felt extremely fortunate that I did not need to leave her with someone I did not know, and, at the same time, felt like this was an opportunity for her to grow closer to her father. There was occasionally some crying as I left, but I knew it would be better if I just did leave. The crying never lasted longer than a few minutes after I left, and it gave my husband confidence that he too could comfort her.

    so, I'm not sure how to vote...I guess I will vote some cry at separation, but it depends on the circumstances. I do not feel comfortable leaving her in a new place with new people if she is unhappy.


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